The Nationals' lone participating All-Star had a big crowd surrounding him during his media availability this afternoon at Citi Field, much of it consisting of international media members who peppered him with questions about his global fan support and asked him to say something in Chinese (Harper politely declined that request). Harper then was ushered upstairs to the official Home Run Derby press conference, where he sat alongside NL teammates David Wright, Michael Cuddyer and Pedro Alvarez.
Jordan Zimmermann was a bit less popular with reporters, which didn't seem to bother the soft-spoken right-hander one bit. Davey Johnson was, of course, a big hit, showing up in full All-Star BP uniform (pretty much everybody else was in street clothes) and answering questions on every topic known to man, including his time in Japan, his thoughts on Chris Davis and obviously his memories of the 1986 Mets.
Here are some highlights from today's sessions...
Harper, asked if it bothers him at all that he'll be hitting ninth for the NL tomorrow night: "Not at all. I really don't care. It's another leadoff, I guess. I'm just trying to have fun. There's so much talent in this whole game. Being in the 9-hole, hopefully I'm not pitching."
Zimmermann, on Harper's chances in tonight's Home Run Derby: "I think he's got as good a chance as anyone. But I don't know if his dad is going to be able to throw strikes with the cleats he's got. Pretty shiny. ... They're pretty loud. Like an orangish-chrome."
Zimmermann, on the cleats he'll be wearing: "They're black and gray. That shouldn't stick out too much."
Johnson, on Ron Harper pitching to his son tonight in the Derby: "I'm sure it's not the first time he's thrown to him. But he's going to be swinging hard no matter who's throwing to him. I didn't really know his dad kept his arm in shape. With those big guns he's got, I don't know how he keeps his arm in shape."
Johnson, on if he'd ever consider hitting Harper at the bottom of the Nats' lineup: "No, but everybody in the lineup is basically a 3-hole hitter. It's an awfully good lineup. I've got him leading off. So I guess it's like a second leadoff hitter. ... There was a big discussion among the coaches, Bochy's coaches. They anguished over the lineup. It's good to have the guys with more experience hitting up in the lineup. He's the youngest."
Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright, asked who he wants to watch tonight in the Derby: "I want to see Bryce. I'm excited to see what he does. I've never seen him hit BP, but I think everyone in here has seen his videos from when he was like 10 years old hitting balls into the upper deck. They should let him use an aluminum bat, that'd be fun."